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We did it! In April I posted about my Colgate University class’s campaign to raise $50,000 to endow a scholarship in honor of our classmate, Dr. Tonya Gscheidle Henderson ’98. I asked for your support, pledging in turn to ride my bike 113 miles.

Not only did I raise more than my $1300 goal, as a whole we have raised over $52,000. In June the fund became an official endowed scholarship. It will have its first recipient this fall.

Thank you. Whether you shared social media posts, donated financially, or sent positive thoughts, your support made this happen. My classmates and I are incredibly grateful.

On Thursday morning, Tonya’s 45th birthday, I started my ride in Schenectady. It was the best weather the east coast had seen in a month; I don’t know how I pulled that off. My biking buddy, Susan, joined me for the first 25 miles, which made that portion go by quickly. We took the Erie Canal path. With all the rain we have had lately, the water was crashing through the locks.

The Sprakers Reformed Church offers their building as a “comfort station.” I was grateful for the clean restroom and the bottled water.

I saw a variety of animals along the trail: three deer, two groundhogs, a small snake, a turkey, a handful of rabbits, and while going by a farm, some really big pigs.

The biggest obstacle occurred around Herkimer. I knew there was a chance part of the trail would be unpaved. Indeed there was. Without warning, the surface changed from pavement to stone dust. This is a step above sand, and not something you really want to ride on with skinny road bike tires. I was looking forward to my next turn, but when I glanced to see where I was supposed to go, all that was in view was a muddy hill. Without a mountain bike and/or hiking boots, there was no way I was tackling that. The turn was supposed to be a short cut. Even though I was afraid continuing straight would add a few miles, that was clearly the better option. Miraculously, it didn’t add any significant mileage.

When I initially planned the ride, I was going to get off the canal trail around Ilion. I later adjusted that, deciding to continue on to Utica. From there it would be local roads. It was therefore a big deal as I approached the city line. There were some nice areas of the city. This, however, was not one of them.

I was slowing down at this point. I was tired, a little sore, low on water, and had reached the uphill portion of the program. I invited my father, also a Colgate alum, to join me for the last 13 miles. I was running late, so he met me at the 97 mile mark. After having ridden 72 miles alone, it was incredibly comforting to see him. Our paces are different enough that we didn’t really ride together for those final 16 miles. But between knowing he was there, and being on the home stretch, I got enough of a second wind to power through.

By the time I reached Lake Moraine Road, I was on autopilot. I could see the campus from afar, and felt at home.

Nine hours after departing, I reached 113.8 miles as I coasted along the pathway to East Hall. Darcie Leach Loveless ’98, Associate Director of Stewardship, greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. She brought swag, and I felt like I was on the Tour de France podium.

Somehow, despite the fatigue and sore muscles, the experience was amazing.

Class of ’98 and Class of ’72: An Alumni Event

Videos

My camera only has four hours of battery life, so I couldn’t record the entire ride. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to watch that much anyway! There are three options below: short, medium, and long. I recommend watching these with the sound off. Most of what you hear is the camera rattling.

Frank Dining Hall to East Hall (1:22)

Oak Drive to East Hall (5:26)

Colgate Inn to East Hall (8:54)

Up the Hill, with Profound Determination

Photo by Andrew M. Daddio, Colgate University, August 5, 2009. Retrieved from flickr.com.
“1819” sung by the Colgate 13, Cutting it Close, 1980

I’m going on a bike ride, and I need your help.

After years of saying I don’t want to do charity rides, and I hate fundraising, I’m doing a ride to raise money.

Here’s what you need to know. My friend and college roommate, Tonya, has cancer. She has reached the stage where there are no more treatments available. Over the past several months, she has been in hospice care. In her words:

Facebook post, April 2021

Tonya has immeasurable wealth. It is not the kind backed by a federal agency, but a wealth of faith, determination, courage, and an ability to befriend anyone who crosses her path. My classmates and I want to honor this spirit; it is the “spirit that is Colgate.” In order to do so, we need to raise tangible funds. Everything we raise will go toward financial aid. Hopefully we will raise enough to endow a scholarship in Tonya’s name. Financial aid made Colgate possible for Tonya, and our goal is to pay that forward (More about Tonya in our official ask below).

It is in this same spirit that I am committing to ride my bike 113 miles, ending at East Hall, our freshman dorm. The ride will take place on Tonya’s birthday, July 22, 2021 (severe weather threats will change the date). I hope you will consider supporting this effort. My initial goal is $1300. All money raised will go directly to the fund set up by Colgate. This is not a glitzy fundraiser; swag is pretty limited. Any gift amount will be appreciated, you do not have to choose from Colgate’s default amounts. If you need some inspiration, here is a range of possibilities:

$13: Sets the thing in motion (listen to the song at the beginning of the post). Colgate’s lucky number.
$18.19: Year of Colgate’s founding.
$19.98: Year of our graduation.
$41.31: Tonya’s CU mailbox number
$56.50: 50 cents per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above will get a handwritten, rather than email, thank you note.
$113: One dollar per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive a text update from the road.
$133.46: Colgate’s zip code
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive a selfie from the road.
$197.75: One Slice per mile! (At current day prices. Still plain only.)
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive two selfies from the road (neither selfie will include pizza).
$282.50: Two and a half dollars per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive three selfies from the road.
$565: Five dollars per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to follow me electronically through Garmin’s Livetrack*, and receive three selfies.
$860: Number of students starting out in the Class of ’98. The biggest and the best!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to receive four selfies.
$1130: Ten dollars per mile!
Anyone pledging at this level or above may opt to be tagged/thanked in social media posts, and receive five selfies.
$1300: Genuine fan of Tonya.
Pledge this much, I’ll buy you something from the bookstore.

*Limited number available

Prefer to drive rather than write a check? I am also looking for someone (must be fully vaccinated) to help get me to the Schenectady area (beginning of the ride) from Colgate (end of the ride). I would like to leave my car at Colgate, and have someone drive me from there – the day before the ride – to a hotel near the starting point. Please let me know if you can do this!

Next steps!

— Donate at: http://colgate.edu/hendersonfund (Please contact me if you’d prefer a different method. Please note that donating directly to Colgate comes with a tax deduction, other ways do not.)

— In the comments section, please write, “Jennifer’s bike ride.”

Email me your gift level and phone number (for texts or selfies)

If you would like to follow my training progress, sign up here to receive updates Sorry, too many issues with the site. See my usual FB updates.

— Follow the fund’s progress (updated weekly)

Also welcome are cheerleaders at East Hall! Our official ask is below the map. Please let me know if you have any questions. THANK YOU and GO GATE!

tonyasride@gmail.com
Tentative route – with elevation. It’s going to be a climb at the end!

Our official ask:

It is with a very heavy heart that we write to tell you that our classmate, Tonya Gscheidle Henderson, is losing her life to a rare form of cancer. Tonya was, to so many of us, the epitome of what was best about our Colgate years. She was a community builder, spreading ’gate enthusiasm and creating lasting friendships in every corner of her campus life. Tonya’s grit and joy forged the course of her life, and Colgate was a momentous chapter in that journey. 

After Colgate, Tonya earned her PhD in School Psychology and recently won School Psychologist of the Year for the state of Oklahoma. Tonya was the first person in her family to graduate from college. In many ways, Colgate changed the trajectory of Tonya’s life. We would like to ensure that more students like Tonya attend Colgate by raising $50,000 to endow a scholarship in Tonya’s name. 

We hope to make it possible for Colgate to be an important chapter in another student’s life, so that like Tonya, they can go on to build community wherever their life journey takes them. If we reach our $50k goal within the next year, an endowed scholarship will be named in perpetuity for Tonya.

$50k is a great deal of money to raise in a short period of time. “Up the hill with profound determination” is our guiding motto. Tonya has never given up. Not when she was told Colgate’s hills might be too difficult for her as someone diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Not when she was told to retire because of her health, but continued to work. Not when she was told there were no more treatment options, and has lived long beyond any medical experts’ hopes. We will not give up. We will walk up that steep hill. Please join us on this climb as we raise $50k to honor our determined and brave classmate.

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Colgate, Art, and Judaism

Revelation, Elbert Weinberg, 1963
Revelation, Elbert Weinberg, 1963 (Chapel House, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY)

When my alma mater, Colgate University, announced that former Israeli President Shimon Peres would be speaking on campus, I decided I wanted to be there. My rationale was really nothing more than, “Hey, I visited that guy’s country last year. I wonder what he has to say.”

The biggest challenge was that he was speaking during Family Weekend. This meant there was no room at the inn – any inn – within about 60 miles. But I have a very good network of archivists, and soon found a place to stay.

As I approached the highway entrance ramp in Hartford, I looked down to see that my odometer read 10,013 miles. My car knew it was going to Colgate.

Label accompanying the sculpture
Label accompanying the sculpture (click to enlarge)

One of the first things I did when I arrived in Hamilton was to walk up to Chapel House. I was intent on finding the sculpture by Elbert Weinberg that I knew was there but, to the best of my knowledge, had never seen before. Weinberg was, among other things, a Hartford native, and a Jew. Here in Hartford his work can be seen in front of the State Armory building on the corner of Capitol and Broad (center of photo), at the Mandell Jewish Community Center on Bloomfield Ave in West Hartford, and at Hartford Public Library. Earlier this year I was processing his papers, which are held by the Library. I had previously seen old photographs of the sculpture at Colgate, but it was great to have the opportunity to see it in person.

Shimon Peres is still jet setting across continents at age 91. In conversation with Colgate alum and ABC News’ Bob Woodward, Peres delivered a message of peace. He promoted science and technology, and was encouraging to students (I certainly hope) and non-students (I can vouch for that).

Whether or not anyone else is impressed, it was fascinating to me to be able to combine my love of Colgate, archives work, and involvement with the Jewish community in one weekend trip.

Surviving Un(der)employment

This is my story. It will inevitably be different than yours. It is not so much a guide as a giant thank-you note.

As of Monday morning, I have returned to full time employment. I am incredibly excited to be the new Digital Cataloging Specialist at the Hartford Public Library. I will be splitting my time between maintaining the classical music collections and working with the collections of the Hartford History Center. Though I have spent much more time working with historical collections, I am equally excited to be working with the music collections.

Altogether, I am incredibly fortunate. My un(der)employment only lasted six months. I was able to work part time, so I was never completely unemployed. Financially, it wasn’t easy, but I made it through without any permanent damage. The worst was the perfect storm of heating bills (I advocate summer underemployment), Christmas credit card bills (again, no pesky Fourth of July presents), and the property tax bill for my vehicle (hmm, that does happen in July, too). I could have lived quite happily without January.

There is so much that I thought about doing during the lull in my employment. I considered trips to the beach, museum visits, taking the train to New York for the day. If given a choice, I would have chosen to be out of work during the warmer months of the year, those more conducive to cycling. It doesn’t really matter which half of the year a person is out of work, though. While underemployment provides plenty of free time, it is rather stingy with the spending money. I constantly faced the emotional tug-of-war of wanting to leave the house, but not feeling that I could afford to. Fortunately, I live in a great place, with highly talented people, and plenty of affordable entertainment. Over the past six months I attended Envisionfest, Nightfall, Other People’s Stories, The Ear Cave, and two events at The Hartt School, most recently the Women Composers Festival. I even attended the Colgate Women’s Basketball game at UConn, which added to my alma mater’s [thirteen] minutes of fame. All of these were free! Ok, the Colgate game was free with four years paid tuition, but I digress… I volunteered for The Connecticut Forum and was able to attend their events, too (the Vision & Brilliance panel was phenomenal). Without a steady paycheck, I managed to be happier and do more things than in the past when I had much more money.

While events are fabulous, the emotional support of my family and friends has been priceless. My parents did everything from sending me home with leftovers to making sure I could attend my nephew’s first birthday party. My sister put her son in front of the webcam whenever I needed a smile. A giant hat tip to everyone with whom I regularly interact on social media, as well.

A growing part of my life, particularly since the fall, is my relationship with the Mandell JCC. I am in awe of how much more than a gym marionmembership it has become for me. Toward the end of the summer I was invited to participate in the Stavis Leadership Forum (a joint program with the JCC and the Jewish Federation) and asked if I would like to be on the Hartford Jewish Film Festival committee. I can’t do justice to either in this paragraph, but both have been great experiences. For the film festival I suggested a Kickstarter campaign, and the committee was willing to try it. The extra time I had allowed me to put together our project (please watch the video and support us!). Most recently I was recommended to help with a project for the JCC’s centennial. In the process, I found out my Great Aunt was an Executive Director of one of the agencies that became the JCC. I guess I’m meant to be involved!

Sure, these six months were not entirely puppies and rainbows. There were job interviews and rejections. Weeks went by without there being any positions posted that grabbed my attention. Evenings out with friends were far more likely to include a glass of ice water than wine. As a contractor, if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid, which took away from the glamour of hurricane and blizzard days. I’m also still recovering from the fear that I wouldn’t get this job, and would eventually find myself in a nightmare situation, such as unemployed. In Greenland. But I survived by having a strong, supportive, and varied network that allowed me to enjoy life as much as I could. This had the possibility of being a very dark period, but my community kept it light. Certainly there were days when my spirits were down, but those days were the exception. I don’t wish un(der)employment on anyone, but if you do find yourself there, I hope you have plenty of community support to see you through.